When parents who are paying court-ordered child support become disabled to the point where they can't work, whether due to a medical condition or an injury, they are obviously concerned about whether they will still be required to meet those obligations.

What About Income from Disability Benefits?

Generally a disability, whether temporary or permanent, doesn't relieve people of their responsibility for supporting their children. A court will often look for other sources of income from which the support can be paid.

These sources can include disability insurance benefits paid by the person's employer. They can also include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that people with disabilities can apply for through Social Security.

Seeking Child Support Modification

In most cases, the benefits paid to those with disabilities don't provide the full income they earned before they became disabled. Therefore, it's essential for a disabled parent to ask the court for a modification in child support payments, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the type of disability and a medical diagnosis of whether the person is permanently disabled.

If a disability is believed to be temporary, a court may modify the child support payments for the expected duration of the disability. If it continues longer than expected, the parent can return to court to again modify the child support order.

If a disabled parent who is receiving disability benefits is already behind on those payments or does not make the modified payments going forward, states may be able to garnish those benefits, just as they would with wages. SSI benefits, however, can be garnished only to collect unpaid child support.

Legal Guidance Is Essential

If you become disabled and are unable to collect your normal paycheck, contact your family law attorney as soon as possible so that the court and your co-parent are informed of the situation and necessary steps can be taken to modify your payments. If you owe back child support, you need to be aware of whether that will be taken from your disability benefits.

A disability can result in a temporary or permanent inability to work, or at least to earn as much as you once did. It can also involve costly bills for medical treatment, therapy, home care and more. It's essential that you keep your attorney and the court informed of your financial situation so that you aren't overwhelmed by payments you can't afford. If you have an understanding co-parent who won't fight the support modification, that's helpful. However, any agreement you arrive at yourselves needs to be recognized and codified by the court.